Never before did I
get so close to Nature; never before did she come so close to me….
71% of the Population believes in global warming, while the other 29% are still trying to resolve the "Earth is Flat" debate
you Poison The Environment, the Environment will Poison You
The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land. ~ G.K. Chesterton
5% of the Worlds
Population Consumes a Third of its Resources and makes nearly Half of
its Waste -
In recent opinion polls, solar energy scored higher than all other forms of energy when participants were asked what type of energy is best for future generations.
One solution comes up every morning
Urban sprawl - Cut down all the trees and name the streets after them
Renewable Energy is Homeland Security
Humans aren't the only species on earth, we just act like it
An economy based on the consumption of fixed resources will consume itself
horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save our
plants the trees, the next gets the shade -
Solar Tips, Facts & Tricks Page
When we decided to go on our adventure and live full time out of our RV, we wanted to try and do it as Green as possible. Now I know traveling around North America for multiple years with a big diesel truck doesn't sound that green, but when you consider what our fuel mileage is for our entire house, and not just a simple commute, it doesn't sound that bad.
Here are a few things to consider. In a weeks time - 7 days - We average 40 gallons of fresh water, probably 60 gallons of grey water and 30 to 40 gallons of Black water. 90% of the time, all our energy usage is done with our bank of four 6-Volt Lifeline Absorbed Glass Mat batteries which are charged by our 3 AM 100 Solar Panels. Basically we can be completely self sufficient with our energy needs and the only thing we need to spend money on is food, and fuel for our truck. For those who think Diesel is dirty or causes more polluting then Gas/Petrol, please Click Here. We also try and recycle as much of our products we use as possible. Any aluminum cans, we keep in a bag till we see a recycling center, and we usually keep all paper products in a paper bag to Recycle when we find a center.
This means if you were to compare Cindy and I to the average couple and their energy consumption used in a normal household, we are barley making a footprint with our usage. By no means am I an expert or claim to be one when it comes to Solar, but with the internet and a little time spent researching, I was able to find some info to base our needs off of and get us started. I'll also warn you that once you make the switch to solar, the compulsive tendencies of trying to find new ways to conserve more become very addicting. For the month we were home in Michigan to sell our house, I was appalled at how wasteful friends and family were with lights, A/C units and power hungry appliances. Most people are way too eager to complain about high energy costs, but would never think to open up a window to cool the house down, or switch to Florescent or LED lighting, or conserve energy themselves.
I don't want to sound like Al Gore preaching to the masses, but if we all just consumed a little less, we could make a huge difference. I know the drastic changes that need to be made would never fly here in the United States, we're just to spoiled as a society and way too set in our ways, but if we just made a conscious effort to cut back a little, it wouldn't seem so drastic. Then as we got used to the new lifestyle, each year we could make few more changes and pretty soon, this Global Warming thing would be slowed way down.
On to some things we've learned. A Quick introduction to Solar Power and RVing
The ability to dry camp, or boondock, is what intrigued us with this RV lifestyle. We came from a tent camping background and that solitude of hiking to some secluded campsite to be all alone was what did it for us. As we got older, we became softer and sleeping on the hard ground through numerous rain storms made us start looking at RV's. I had always been intrigued with the Land Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers used on African safaris how they were completely self sufficient for months at a time in the bush. Boondocking and the capabilities of all RV’s to live effectively “off-grid” is dependent solely on water storage capabilities, and the size of your battery bank or how much you want to run your generator if you have one. Personally we don't have a generator and have been able to live for the past 9 months with just our solar panels providing most of our power.
amazed when I first started looking at RV's, that
camper manufacturers did
not provide boondocking technology as a
standard item of their RV’s,
this type of travel has been common across many parts
of the world for decades, but again, us American's are very spoiled and
like to have all our amenities with us. With the standard RV
you are usually limited to 2-4 days time spent
without shore power or dumping facilities.
With the modern technologies readily available to the
consumer today, the standard RV’s capabilities can allow you to
live full time without hookups
for relatively no money when compared to buying a custom made model.
you have enough battery power, you need to
translate some of the DC battery power or 12 volt
to AC or 120 volt, so it can be used by
your normal RV appliances. You do this with an inverter.
Inverters come in all sizes and can be found from small 100 watt models
small enough to power a cell phone or recharge some camera batteries, to
3000 watt models capable of powering an entire coach and even the A/C
Think of the solar panels as just another battery charger. If you've figured out your system correctly, you should get in your camper at night with your batteries charged 100%. This will allow you to do whatever you need to do, use lights, watch TV or work on the computer without having to worry about skimping on power. When you wake up in the morning, the power you used will be replenished with the sun for free. If you are waking up each morning with too deep a discharge of the batteries then you need to add more batteries. If you are not getting into the RV at night with the batteries 100% then you need to add more solar. It takes some time and a few trial runs to get it right.
though we don't have one, another way of powering the battery bank is
with a Wind Turbine. This is the next item we are looking at
adding to our full-timing set-up. Turbines are half as much as
Solar Panels in cost and produce much more wattage. The only draw
back is you need to be in sufficient wind, and the Turbine needs to be
set up and isolated from the camper. This is our only draw back
that is keeping us from getting one right now. We are trying to
find one and make sure the process of setting it up and taking it down
wont hinder the reliability of the turbine itself. We'll keep you
informed when we learn anything more.
This here is our dream set-up, we spotted this in
Tennessee. This guy was powering an entire Mobile DJ sound stage
with deep cycle batteries, 16 solar panels and a 500 watt turbine all on
the top of his motorhome!!
We use the Heliotrope PV HPV-22B Charge Controller which actually boosts the output of the solar panels! Both our Xantrex Link 1000 controller/Monitor and our Heliotrope HPV-22B are mounted under our bed where they are easy to monitor, yet out of the way.
One way to see if a Solar
Set-up is right for you is to start out small and work your way up
before spending a few thousand dollars on a full Boondocking set-up.
Like I've said numerous times in our blogs, if you are just the
occasional weekend warrior, a full solar set-up will be a waste.
To Review Our Wind Turbine Page, Click Here and see how easy it is to have a Turbine Mast put on the back of your RV to help generate free power
Ways to save on Energy Consumption in your RV
One of the best ways to conserve the battery consumption in the Camper is to Use Less. Do we really need all those lights on? Do we really need to keep the heater set on 70°? Do we really have to watch Television all night long or leave the radio on when not really listening?
We tend to stay outdoors as much as possible and find that the camper is just a big tent for us. Sure it has the luxuries of a queen size pillow top mattress, and keeps the rain off our heads, but we don't spend too much time in it otherwise. When we do spend time in it, which is usually after dark and the outdoor activities bring us in, we try and conserve as much as possible.
We've found that swapping out as many of our bulbs to much cleaner burning LED bulbs is a major way to conserve energy consumption. Much like swapping out the standard 60 watt bulb in your house to a 10 watt florescent bulb to save power, imagine if you could drop that 10 watt bulb down to a 0.7 watt draw like that of an LED bulb.
I'll admit, Cindy doesn't like the dimness of the LED's, they aren't as bright and warm as a standard bulb, but I can turn on multiple LED lights and not even see the Battery monitor move a bit. If everyone was to switch to these type bulbs, think of the energy we could save.
One way we found to really conserve is to use our LED headlamps with rechargeable batteries for reading. Something we do a lot of. We found a 6 light LED at a local hardware store for under $20 that we hung above our bed and runs on 3 'AAA' batteries. I bought a pack of rechargeable 'AAA' and it gives off plenty of light for reading. Another way to not have to worry about draining the battery bank.
Another way we try and conserve battery power is to charge all our batteries (Camera, Cell Phone, Flashlights...etc) in the truck while driving. This not only saves battery power from the camper, but uses no power at all since the truck is making this power anyway. We've also tried to switch everything to rechargeable batteries to save on money and waste. A few years ago, rechargeable batteries were somewhat of a joke. Not true today.
Most are just as powerful as non-rechargeable models and think of the money and landfill space we're saving. I'm still using rechargeable batteries that I bought 2 & 3 years ago for items like flashlights, remotes, and the computer mouse's. Remember to recycle your rechargeable batteries when you're done with them to keep them out of the landfills. Check out this Link for the nearest Recycle spot.
Another way of conserving power is to keep the heat off. One thing that will kill a battery fast is the Campers Heater. I cant figure out why the RV industry is so far behind the Marine industry? Anytime you want to get some new ideas for your RV, pick up a copy of the latest sailing magazine. They are 10-15 years ahead of the RV industry.
Sail Boats have non-electric heaters that run off of propane and draw no power what so ever, why cant these heaters be used in RV's? Dickinson is a name that comes to mind and if you were going to be doing any extended camping in cold climates, they would be the company to contact.
We went ahead and bought a Mr. Heater style portable heater. This little 9000 BTU heater will warm our 25' Sunline from a chilly 60° into the comfortable mid 70's in no time and only uses a fraction of the propane with no power lost from our bank of batteries.
For the initial cost of under $100, it is money well spent that will keep us in the Boondocks with no need to look for shore power.
adding another layer we tend to not need the heat as much as we did at
home. We have a quality down comforter on the bed, and usually
sleep with some fleece pants or a light shirt on rather then crank the
heat up. One of the best ways we found to pre-heat the bed when
the temperatures drop is to invite the dogs to get up and sleep there
for a few minutes while we're getting ready for bed. Then when we
crawl into bed, they're nice and warm thanks to the dogs body heat...LOL
*************Benefits of Solar
It's Clean, Quiet, & Easy to use
In recent opinion polls, solar energy scored higher than all other forms of energy when participants were asked what type of energy is best for future generations.
I found this Forum Post on RV Net and thought it would be a good comparison
GENERATOR Warranty: 2 years
Bringing up the Generator VS. Solar arguments can start some heated arguments in the RV world. You have these old timers who think this new fangled stuff is for the birds and will argue till they're blue in the face that Global Warming is just a crock of Sh*t. Just keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with spending a little bit more money for a much superior product that is going to keep you out in the boondocks longer and with less of a footprint then it's competitor.
Links to Solar Sites Worth Checking Out
Lifeline AGM 6-Volt Batteries - The Best of the Best, no maintenance and very reliable
Palmer Energy Systems - Located in Central Florida and very experienced in Solar Set-Ups
AM Solar - Where we bought our equipment from. Very knowledgeable and friendly
RV Solar - A small website that has some great info on Solar living and RV's
Hybrid Light - Makers of a Solar Powered Flashlight we use and LOVE!
Gypsy Journal - An RV specific On-Line magazine with tons of useful info
Super Bright LED's - Where we buy our LED Bulbs from - With the prices dropping and the quality rising each year, this is a great way to conserve power
RV.Net - This web Forum is a God send when it comes to answering any of our questions. Anytime we think of a new idea, we can search this forum and it has usually been asked, done and changed multiple times to work the kinks out.
Home Power Magazine - Not for RV's, but still great knowledge on Solar products for your house
Other ways to conserve while RVing and Living your Daily Life
One of the biggest things people waste in a normal house is their water usage. Americans use more water per capita than any other nation on earth. What most Americans don't realize is 80 percent of the developing world's health problems are related to contaminated water. For a huge percentage of the earth's population, turning on a faucet would be as miraculous as turning water into wine. 1.1 billion people in the world don't have access to clean water.
Flushing your toilet uses 3-5 gallons of water per flush. Switching to a Low-Flow toilet will only use 1.6 gallons per flush. In our RV, we only flush it down when it's brown, and even then, the toilet uses next to nothing per flush. Like I said, 40 gallons lasts us a full week between flushing, drinking and showering.
Brushing your teeth for 1 minute with the faucet running uses 4 gallons. Turning the faucet off while brushing will drop that down to 0.2 gallons. For us, we try and conserve as much as possible, and only turn the water on for a split second to get the toothbrush wet, then again for a split second to flush the toothpaste down the drain when were done.
This is something we can get around, but washing your dishes by hand will waste 25 gallons on average. Switching to a water-wise dishwasher will drop that consumption down to only 6 gallons. For us, we cant use a dishwasher, but have found that using the same utensils for the entire day will drop down on washing. If it is raining, we can set up a foldable water basin we bought at REI to catch rain water to use for dishwashing.
Another huge waste of water is washing your camper at home. On average, washing a vehicle for 10 minutes with the hose running will waste close to 100 gallons! By going to a commercial car wash where you can use a high powered sprayer you will cut that water usage down to only 32 gallons. We try and keep our camper clean, but we're not anal about it. This helps in conserve water, and a good coat of wax will help the dirt just fall off.
I was told that tilting my Solar Panels would increase our amperage coming in from the sun. So one day we decided to test this theory. I had Cindy sit and watch the Heliotrope HPV-22B Charge Controller which tells us our incoming amperage.
I crawled up on the roof and tilted each of our 3 panels at a 45° angle. Before I had went outside, our incoming was at 8.5 amps. After I tilted the 3 panels towards the sun, it jumped up to 14.1 amps!!
That just goes to show you that if you're going to be sitting for a few days, it really pays off to tilt the panels. Now I only wish we had one of the electronic lifts that would tilt our panels from inside the coach! Now were talking!
Kick the bottled water habit! Disposable plastic water bottles which are made from petroleum, are dumped into landfills at the rate of 3 million per day in California alone! An NRDC study found that 25% of the brands are just selling you glorified tap water.
Instead, buy a high quality Nalgean bottle from an outdoor supplier, and install a good set of filters on your home tap. Fill the nalgene bottle every morning and reuse the same container rather than waste so many plastic bottles.
we first started camping, we used to buy a case of bottled water per
week, now we just have two filters (One charcoal for sediment and small
particles, and one Class A for harmful bacteria and contaminates) that
we use to fill our fresh water tank with. Now the water coming out
of the tap tastes great and we don't have nearly as much waste with all
the empty plastic bottles. This also helps us regulate our water
intake, because we know that we have to drink a full nalgene bottle each
day to stay hydrated.
One great site to learn more about water conservation is from Patagonia's website. This outdoor clothing company shows how our oceans are in peril and shows the facts that an area equal to twice the lower 48 states is plowed up by bottom trawlers every year, destroying deep-water reefs and other habitat. Due to global warming, untreated sewage and farm runoff, half of the world's coral reefs could be gone by 2045!
the pollution in the ocean comes from the land, including 400 million
tons of fertilizer from the Mississippi alone each year.
One of the best ways to conserve while at home is to start swapping out your old appliances for Energy Star-Certified models. For the biggest bang for your buck, start in this order:
Washing Machine: Save up to 56% in energy use
Lets face it, Energy is Money, the more you conserve, the more money you save. This relates to more money in your pocket, and more time you can spend in your RV having fun in the outdoors. Isn't that what it's all about!! Check out www.energystar.gov to see where you can save, and which models are the most energy efficient.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people don't Recycle. It is obvious how much this can help our environment and save the world from global warming and keep our landfills from overflowing. For example, to make glass from recycled glass costs less and uses less energy then making it from scratch.
I think most people are reluctant to recycle because they compare it to becoming some old hippie. When in reality - Recycling is more for the modern Eco-Friendly type. Hippies are a thing of the past, recyclers are the future.
By not recycling, you're more likely to be thought of as "The Old Cuss that is too set in their ways to change." Much like most young men think of their fathers.
With technologies advancing rapidly and consumers constantly in with the new and out with the old; you can’t help but wonder, what happens to all the old electronics they get rid of? Well some are sold, others are donated or recycled, and surprisingly, a lot are just thrown away.
If you aren’t able to sell your used items, your best bet is to recycle them. Televisions are used on average for less than two years. For computers, it's three. Recycling, or "E-cycling," these and other electronic items is critical for preserving landfill space and for ensuring that hazardous materials used to make electronics are properly disposed.
Whether you are looking to recycle a television, computer, ipod or cell phone, the Electronics Industry Alliance (EIA) maintains a listing of organizations nationwide that accept donations of working electronics products. Recyclers can choose their location and EIA will provide various locations for recycling those used items. That old excuse of ‘I didn’t know where to recycle’ is no longer viable. Sorry!
While looking through some of the top news stories this morning, I stumbled across this article from Dr. Craven about Bio-Diesel and Going Green. Its just a short read and is pretty interesting when the facts are stated out in the open. Just think if we could really cut our ties to foreign oil what it would do with the economy. Hopefully America will "Wake Up" and this can happen very soon!
1. 5 is the number of planets we would need if everyone lived like the average North American. If everyone lived like the average European, we’d need three. Unfortunately, we only have one.
2. Shoppers worldwide are using 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags per year. This translates to about 150 bags a year for every person on earth. Remember to bring your own!
3. 83% of Americans now say global warming is a “serious” problem. This is up from 70 percent in 2004.
4. According to some calculations, eating just 3 burgers a week can add between 941 and 1,023 pounds of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere each year.
5.The average American has about 2.5 times the ecological footprint of the average Italian.
Tool Kit List - We've had a bunch of emails asking what tools and items first timers should bring, so I went ahead and made a list of what we bring with us. By no means is this gospel, but it's a good start. Feel free to copy it and add or delete anything you need.
Camper Check List - A list of things we do before leaving camp. Again, this isn't gospel, but its a good start for those who might not already have a list made up.
Earth First! We Can Mine The Other Planets Later